Where I’m going with this

This is an expansion of my last post, The Long View. When I first wrote it I realized I had more to say but I wasn’t sure what. I found more today – tell me if it expands the ideas for you – or what? Thank you.

The Long View

When I was growing up everyone around me gave me suggestions for “what to do when…” I grew up. My friends and I wrote on our notebooks and in our journals what we wanted, to do, to be, to have and to hold. We girls tried different names on with our “first” names, we got “married,” wore “big” clothes, generally did everything we could to avoid being who we were; little girls growing up.

It wasn’t different for the boys, just different jobs, no name change and different responsibilities. We all had help from those around us. Teachers, parents, aunts, uncles, headmasters, principals, ministers of all kinds and creeds told us pretty much the same things: Do your best by following the designs laid down by our forebears. Take the next step, don’t be a surprise. No one wants a surprise.

When I was ten my mother’s cousins sat around me – I remember a close circle, but that was more how I felt than how they were arranged I suspect – and, talking over my head, decided where I would go to college, what I would do for how long before I married into their version of a suitable match.

I took notes. I listened (it made no sense), smelled their breath, their perfume, their shoes, and, in the invisible notepad in my heart vowed to do nothing they said. Nothing.

What a great set up that was for a willful rebel, for a kid whose mission was to fly under the radar. All of which I did (flew under) and none of which supported me anymore than following their objectives could have.

Now in the age of Facebook I see everyone married to everyone else – transcending age and gender – all goals and paths, up and down laid out in not very elegant prose. (If my mother’s cousins were anything, they were elegant.)

It feels so much like freedom I could almost be fooled into thinking there is less planning today and more “happy being me.” Instead I think not so much in terms of “more” and “less” but in the same. For instance, a few weeks ago I spoke with a young man of 25 who (I think) was trying to impress me with his plans. He said he had just landed a job with a well-known company in the tech field, he was being paid to be trained (and very proud of that) and he claimed to be willing to work for that company for 35 years. He had the list of his steps up the ladder: one year entry level, three years field work, and ending somehow in management after 35 years.

I have to admit my head swam and I might not have gotten all his details correctly. Why would anyone put himself on such a journey. I didn’t hear about discovery, I didn’t hear about enjoyment. I heard entrainment, a version of responsibility. I was at a loss – for words, among other things.

After spending much of the summer researching trauma and loss, fear, recovery and memory – and why would anyone study that unless they felt they would grow in the understanding of those close around them (that would be me!) – I did recognize that I was listening to fear. I was hearing about unacknowledged choices, unrecognized chances and a life lived within the barest of minimum tracks.

Of course I see myself in him. The fear of failure, the holding tight to what is known. We can all relate to some degree to the young who are starting out with what we call “chances of a lifetime,” while we know something about lifetimes and the longevity of denial. Denial has its own life. It can go on and on. It can hide in the smallest cracks, the most reasonable choices, the most sensible moments.

Who among us does not have a story about a dream unfilled, a lover denied. Not all of mine were chances lost, most were gains – but what about the mini-moments of denial, the tiny efforts let go, the chances I thought I couldn’t handle because I wasn’t good enough or didn’t deserve. There are those moments that come to each of us every day. How do we meet and greet them. What plans do we make to avoid them, what skills do we fall back on to justify choices? How do we treat our moment of green thrust? Do we make room?

Being here, where I am now, having parried with choices, with denial, with feeling good and bad about myself, I can see the well- lived, the half-lived, under and over the bar, within or without the spectrum, the degree to which I have been me, myself. It has become easy to see when I stray, when I strain. It was not so easy then. I thought strain was part of it. Part of the path – strain to be on it, strain to be off it. I was often filled with self-conscious confidence, judgement of where I was, where they were. Lots of judgement, like a chocolate sundae, so good at the first bite, a bit sickening at the last.

I don’t have the story that Mark Twain told of being amazed how much his father had learned in such a short time – when he got older and saw the wisdom of his father. I don’t feel anyone is right or wrong. I think there are a lot of confusing choices. There always have been and there always will be. That’s why we are here. Not to have an easy life but to bump up against ourselves, to make our marks like wrinkles as well as those of us who get to be known for something. To keep on going is enough. Putting one foot in front of the other, keeping our eyes and our hearts open, the wind in our face. As James Taylor wrote, “It’s enough to be on your way, enough just to cover ground, it’s enough to be moving on.” But for a life “well lived,” we are tasked to mindfulness, to feelings. (not emotions – that’s another article) We want the best for ourselves and in order to get that, we have to give ourselves the best – and accept it.

 

 

The Long View

A few weeks ago I spoke with a young man of 25 who (I think) was trying to impress me with his plans. He said he had just landed a job with a well-known company in the tech field, He was being paid to be trained and he claimed to be willing to work for that company for 35 years, he had the list of his steps up the ladder: one year entry level, three years field work, and ending somehow in management after 35 years.

I have to admit my head swam and I might not have gotten all his details correctly. Why would anyone put themselves on such a journey. I didn’t hear about discovery, I didn’t hear about enjoyment. I heard entrainment, a version of responsibility. I was at a loss – for words, among other things.

After spending much of the summer researching trauma and loss, fear, recovery and memory – and why would anyone study that unless they felt they would grow in the understanding of those close around them (that would be me!) – I did recognize that I was listening to fear. I was hearing about unacknowledged choices, unrecognized chances and a life lived within the barest of minimum tracks.

Of course I see myself in him. The fear of failure, the holding tight to what is known. We can all relate to some degree to the young who are starting out with what we call “chances of a lifetime,” while we know something about lifetimes and the longevity of denial. Denial had its own life. It can go on and on. It can hide in the smallest cracks, the most reasonable choices, the most sensible moments.

Who among us does not have a story about a dream unfilled, a lover denied. Not all of mine were chances lost, most were gains – but what about the mini-moments of denial, the tiny efforts let go, the chances I thought I couldn’t handle because I wasn’t good enough or didn’t deserve. There are those moments that come to each of us every day. How do we meet and greet them. What plans do we make to avoid them, what skills do we fall back on to justify choices? How do we treat our moment of green thrust? Do we make room?IMG_7843

 

 

This Is My Room

Scanned Image 110670032

 

I’ve been studying a lot about the brain lately – and habits. Such important tidbits and bytes that make up our worlds, personalities and basically our lives. How we see things – things as they are are how we see them. Pirandello wrote a play called Cosi e se vi pare – as usual I can’t do the accents on my accentless keyboard – but loosely translated it means we see what we want to see. (it is so if you think it is)
One of my brain readings involved toast. Burnt toast. It seems that when we in the christian world burn toast, we often see Christ’s face. This is not because Christ’s face is there, no, but because we see what we expect to see and we see the face of Christ a lot.
Gives me pause about the court system and any leaning at all toward believing in the truth of the eyewitness. Bystanders are no exception, they see what they want to see. I read what I want to read. Sometimes I think I’m making up the whole novel as I go along – but then every once in a while an idea plays in front of me that I know didn’t come from my head!
What about you? What do you see? Who do you see? Where were you when you saw…?

DSC00327_HDR

Something Old, Something New

The field fallow for fifty years

Does not open to rain right away

But takes its time in the slow days

Of age that fly by, the days marked

By the rise and fall of sun and moon.

The moon taking the greater impression

 

This field has taken care of others all its life,

So far. All its time it has been a caretaker

Never grown its own crops. So how can the

Seeds not planted grow? How can the life not

Lived look in the mirror when what’s

Been the view all these years were others’ needs.

 

Think a minute in the still white mind

Take a moment of the apron’s cloth, know

The Larch for what it is, see the water pouring

Into the kettle. Watch the egg bounce to the boil,

Take into your sweet hand the spoon stirring gently

And do not lift the veil of loneliness but dwell

In the land of you and promise to love.

photo

Earth Day

DSC00212_HDR

 

Earth Day: The History of A Movement

“Each year, Earth Day — April 22 — marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

The height of hippie and flower-child culture in the United States, 1970 brought the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. Protest was the order of the day, but saving the planet was not the cause. War raged in Vietnam, and students nationwide increasingly opposed it.

At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. “Environment” was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news.  Although mainstream America remained oblivious to environmental concerns, the stage had been set for change by the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962.  The book represented a watershed moment for the modern environmental movement, selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries and, up until that moment, more than any other person, Ms. Carson raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and public health.

Earth Day 1970 capitalized on the emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns front and center.”

Today, call it Earth Day or anything you like, is a day just like any other. It is what we – each one of us – makes of it.

Morning Poem
by Mary Oliver

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches—
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead—
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging—

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted—

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

 

Mamacita

 

DSC02095

We keep our eyes on our feral cat Mamacita. We house her in a heated abode and when she doesn’t want to sleep there, we make sure there is another choice – also heated. Perhaps the wind is coming from the wrong direction, we make sure she has choices.
Her water dish is heated and refreshed regularly. Her food is offered room temperature and fresh. She allows us to pet her most of the time. This has all taken about four years.
When she is here we feel relaxed, part of a larger whole. We pay some of the same attention to the birds and other, what we call creatures, that we live with and around. We have the ability to think we make their life better and we depend on that.
When Mamacita is elsewhere – we don’t know where – we are on the lookout. Somewhat uncomfortable in our skin. Is she OK? Will she come back? Did something eat her? It can be an internal (interfamily) struggle sometimes – one of us says keep her thinner so she can run fast and another may say she needs to be warm and able to go days without food if that were to become necessary. But no one of us can resist her face at the window, so she is fed generously.
She has given us three kittens and we have given her the end of her motherhood in a moment of neutering – where it was assured she would never be tamed. We think it may take a bit more time and we think she will be inside with us one day. We are not (collectively) sure if this will be a great moment in our history!
In the meantime, we lean on her for our self approval. And when she doesn’t reject our care, when she takes in our nurturance, we are so happy and feel so blessed.
DSC02101

 

 

 

Easter

IMG_3029

 

Always an “easy” holiday, Easter was my favorite. Sometimes it fell on my birthday and I could be special in the spring welcome with daffodils and pansies.
I kept the tradition of making a cake in the shape of a lamb for many years. Recently I took the cake mold to my daughter Becky’s house and we made a cake together – and I left the mold with her! She has been asking for a lamb cake for some time and I look forward to many more bakings with me going to her house or her bringing the cake mold to me. Nice to switch up the traditions. It was great to sit with her family and friends talking about Easters past – and not actually doing anything!
Lambs – all babies and most animals – are filled with expression and rarely have a negative vibe. Easter doesn’t explore guilt or blame – particularly if you stick to the Pagan tradition – and who can complain about coloring eggs and looking for them.
I am going to skip the blood and guts of the Passion in favor of reveling in the rite of winter’s passage and my own deep pleasure in the coming of spring.

this must be shared – from Mary Oliver

Leda and the Swan

 

From Mary Oliver’s book, Winter Hours

The Swan

Years ago I set three “rules” for myself. Every poem I write, I said, must have a genuine body, it must have sincere energy, and it must have a spiritual purpose. If a poem to my mind failed any one of these categories it was rebuked and redone, or discarded. Over the forty or so years during which writing poems has been my primary activity, I have added other admonitions and consents. I want every poem to “rest” in intensity,. I want  it to be rich with pictures of the world. I want it to carry threads from the perceptually felt world to the intellectual world. I want each poem to indicate a life lived with intelligence, patience, passion, and whimsy (not my life – not necessarily! – but the life of my formal self, the writer).
I want the poem to ask something and, at its best moments, I want the question to remain unanswered. I want it to be clear that answering the question is the reader’s part in an implicit author-reader pact. Last but not least, I want the poem to have a pulse, a breathiness, some moment of earthly delight. (While one is luring the reader into the enclosure of serious subjects, pleasure is by no means an unimportant ingredient.)
“The Swan” has some of these qualities. It has as well a “secret” humor; I was watching geese not swans when I began the poem – that is, thought of the poem, felt it in concept, and wrote down a few lines. Since I had only recently written a poem about geese, I thought I would intensify the poem’s display, and make something even fancier than wild geese out of the beautiful bird shapes I was watching. I thought this fairly funny, and I remember it was therefore with a certain light-hearted pleasure that I proceeded with the description. Though unknown as a fact to the reader, I don’t wonder at all if my mood attuned me more finely than otherwise to my work – I am sure it did.
The form was no problem – long sentences and short lines, a little enjambment to keep things going (the swan is in motion) but not too much, so that the lines, like the swan’s movements are decisive, and keep their dignity. Take out some commas for smoothness and because almost every poem in the universe moves too slowly. Then, once the “actual” is in place (in words), begin to address the reason for taking the reader’s good and valuable time – invite the reader to want to do something beyond merely receiving beauty, and to configure in his or her own mind what that might be. Make sure there is nothing in the poem that would keep the reader from becoming the speaker of the poem. And, that’s all. The final phrase – “touch the shore” – is vital; it is a closure yet it is also a moment of arrival, and therefore a possible new beginning.
The poem in which the reader does not feel himself or herself a participant is a lecture, listened to from an uncomfortable chair, in a stuffy room, inside a building. My poems have all been written – if not finished at least started – somewhere out-of-doors: in the fields, on the shore, under the sky. They are not lectures. The point is not what the poet would make of the moment but what the reader would make of it. If the reader accepts and thinks about its question, “The Swan” accomplishes what it set out to do.

The Swan

Across the wide waters
something comes
floating – a slim
and delicate

ship, filled
with white flowers –
and it moves
on its miraculous muscles

as though time didn’t exist,
as though bringing such gifts
to the dry shore
was a happiness

almost beyond bearing.
And now it turns its dark eyes,
it rearranges
the clouds of its wings,

it trails
an elaborate webbed foot,
the color of charcoal.
Soon it will be here.

Oh, what shall I do
when that poppy-colored beak
rests in my hand?
Said Mrs. Blake of the poet:

I miss my husband’s company –
he is so often
in paradise.
Of course! the path to heaven

doesn’t lie down in flat miles.
It’s in the imagination
with which you perceive
this world,

and the gestures
with which you honor it.
Oh, what will I do, what will I say, when those
white wings
touch the shore?

painting, “Leda and The Swan”   Pam White

This Time of Year

DSC00354

Whatever you are doing right now, it probably has something to do with family and friends.  So many stories, so much love, longing, regret, and joy. I love the cold and the coming of the light. The stars’ light falls on us all. We are all touched by the beauty of the dark and light surrounding, contrasting, memorializing all we experience. It feels as if there is more quiet, more smiles, more shared music.
When I think about what’s important, what feels right in my heart I am grateful for those who help me understand who I am and grateful to myself for taking up the challenge.

From Brene Brown:

“Vulnerability isn’t good or bad. It’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.
Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

May you gather support from all you feel, from all you touch and are touched by.
May your dreams come gladly to you and leave quietly.
Let light be your angel and the dark your comfort.
DSC00361

 

The Road More Or Less Traveled

DSC00327_HDR

There is a morality joke about walking down a street and falling into a hole. Walking down the same street and falling into the hole. Walking down that street and waiting to fall into the hole. Yep. Walking down the street and looking for the hole to fall in to.
We get used to our patterns. They are more than familiar. They are comfortable. We get good at breathing through the stranglehold they have over us. Of course it’s our stranglehold. My strangle, myself.
The teaching is to walk down another street. Or to get agile, unattached and aware.
Paying attention is helpful if it’s part of a willingness to change. My late and ex-husband, in an attempt to loose weight, used to count calories and write down everything he ate. He had small notebooks filled with copious amounts of food usually counting upwards of 5000 calories in a day. It may have made him aware, it never helped him lose weight. Knowing the enemy is not strategic.
Knowing yourself is.
It’s possible if those notebooks had contained how he felt before and when he ate, he might have been healthier. He would have to accept responsibility for the eating instead of choosing to feel helpless and doomed.
Above the temple at Delphi is written, “Know Thyself.” Still the best strategy for any move. With self knowledge it doesn’t matter if I trust you – if I trust me. It doesn’t matter so much where I walk, I can take the terrain or step away. Knowing myself can allow me to feel calm and slow time so I can give myself a choice that works for me.
My nephew David’s son David is a 17 year old whiz at slowing time. I watched this video of him and could feel the time span out so he was in complete control, making it look easy.
He does this because it’s all he’s doing at the time and he’s gained confidence and trust in himself. He’s in the moment, not zoned out doing the same thing. He’s not phoning it in, he’s right there, right now. Full disclosure is he’s been on a motorized vehicle since before his 3rd birthday. That gives him a good 10 + years of experience and an edge on most of us.